Is there anyone who inspires more images of kind of terrifying, vamp-like makeup and images of wire hangers?
If you don't know what I am talking about and you are in the mood for a deeply disturbing film, go watch Mommie Dearest. But honestly, I wouldn't recommend it. I made my poor husband sit down and watch it with me in preparation for FX's "Feud". When Joan wanders into her little girl's room and sees wire hangers in her closet, she screams like a banshee, "NO... WIRE... HANGERS!!!"
At that point, my husband looked at me and said, "WTF is this movie you are making me watch???"
And I had to agree. The film was less than enjoyable, perhaps because it clouded my view of this stunning actress. I knew Joan Crawford was said to have what some might call a strong personality, but this was going even further than I expected.
So let's go back to the beginning...
Joan Crawford Before "Mommie Dearest"
Born Lucille La Seur, Joan was a small town girl who wasn't educated much beyond the 5th grade. When she broke into films, she didn't even understand some of the words her characters would use, so she made heavy use of a dictionary!
As Donald Spoto put it in Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford, she set out "with her usual single-minded energy" to turn herself into the kind of society gal that would fit in with royalty. She studied French. She changed her wardrobe from small-town theatre chippy to professional. She even hired a vocal coach and learned opera! And the part I can relate to the most, she became an avid reader, devouring everything from Shakespeare to H.G. Wells.
Joan Crawford's Pretty Effective Guide to Overcoming Your Fears
Joan once said, "I became a pretty good polo player in order to get over my fear of horses." Now, if that isn't a way to tackle your fears, I don't know what is. Scared of spiders? Sit in a tub full of them. Have an aversion to public speaking? Volunteer to speak at your child's next school assembly.
A study from the University of Southern California stated that the best way to achieve your goals is to have small wins -- for example, making your bed in the morning. Or even doing all the dishes in your sink. Perhaps for Joan, it was wrapping up her lessons on the famous aria from Lucia di Lammermoor. Or perhaps it was finishing the last chapter of The Time Machine. And if the studies are true, perhaps each one of those milestones led to the next, eventually ending in an icon -- and an Academy Award for Best Actress in Mildred Pierce.
So, there are a few images of Joan. Who knows, perhaps they are all true on some level. But the one I would like to emulate is the one of Joan as a self-educated, self-made woman. Regardless of what else can be said about her, that is something to admire. After all, who doesn't love a good rags to riches story?
Still, I'm removing all the wire hangers in my closet.